The Buddhist principle of ‘ahimsa’ or nonviolence is today a central tenet in many spiritual circles including New Age Philosophy. It suggests vegetarianism and a general attitude of respect towards all living things. Obviously, it also means that one does not physically harm anyone or anything.
What is the purpose of this principle, and does it accomplish what it sets out to do?
The origin of this can be traced to a general feeling of sensitivity, compassion, and connectedness with other sentient beings. Particularly when a person is involved with religion or spirituality, their sensitivity tends to grow as their energy and thoughts start aligning with higher principles of peace and love.
This ideology has general validity. There is senseless chaos in violence. It accomplishes nothing. It creates negativity and can cause physical and emotional harm.
Even more senseless however, and more common and more poisonous, is self-inflicted violence.
It has many forms. At its extreme, it can be seen in suicide, self-mutilation, etc. But at its core it is a much simpler phenomenon. Self-inflicted violence has its roots in a simple non-recognition of your own true nature.
That true nature that is ever radiant, loving, kind, and intelligent is often hidden in people to varying degrees. In extreme cases a person can become a murderer who has an immense fear of life, or a rapist who is deeply insecure about his or her sexuality. In less intense cases, it is simply the collective forgetfulness and misery of human life.
We are constantly ignoring our gut feelings and inner nature. We make decisions for the sake of others – based on collective opinion or review. We choose friends and lovers based on what we are comfortable with (people that do not touch our insecurities), rather than on the bases of what we know is right and deeply excites us. We suppress emotions and ignore thoughts that are unusual, for they might result in conflict.
In doing all this we experience a superficial peace – which is a sense of security. But if we look closely, we will see a pattern within this deep need for comfort. The truth is that since we are exteriorized individuals – constantly in interaction and needing to attend to our own survival in the outer world – we have simple settled for a more superficial version of what we truly want.
That is, we have settled for general social acceptance, rather than our own acceptance of ourselves.
When you learn to be intimate with your own self, understand and accept it, a new sense of security comes to be. It is a sense of security that is infinitely free – for it comes from a comfort in the knowledge that one doesn’t need any kind of security at all to feel safe!
Getting in touch with your own inner self is not a difficult task. It is a function of time and intent. When somebody, after suffering, realizes that they have ‘lost something’ or ‘lost touch’, seeking silent refuge in their own existence becomes the natural calling. At a less transformational but still pleasant level, this can be a spa weekend or a camping trip. At a more profound stage, it can mean quitting a job, meeting new people or letting go of old relationships that do not nurture you anymore.
But the fundamental lesson is this: it is when you forget yourself that you harm yourself. When you harm yourself, you hurt inside. When you hurt inside you lash out.
Self-love and nonviolence with oneself are the only real keys to transforming your own behavior in a way that it becomes truly positive around others. It is also the only way to feel whole.